A couple of weeks ago we were invited to help with the annual olive picking at our friends small olive farm. It promised to be a fun day out, after a short journey north of Auckland to Paparoa. This year was a ‘dormant’ year so there weren’t very many olives to pick, but it was still lots of fun, and included a wonderful picnic lunch in the barn (out of the cold southerly that was blowing!). We were told that we could take some of the ‘eating’ olives home with us if we wanted to bottle them for eating…..Yup! Just my kind of thing. It would be fair to say that I probably took more home than was probably polite, but, well, um, I just couldn’t resist! 🙂
Then came the tricky bit, not the actual preparation that is required before bottling the olives, but actually working out what needed to be done! There was so many options on the internet that I got all confused and didn’t know which option would the be the best one. So, I just kind of ‘winged it’ and it seemed to work out all right.
Here’s what I did figure out. You need to separate the black (ripe) ones from the green (not yet ripe) ones. Then you need to break the skin so that you can soak them. The point of the soaking is to get all the oleuropein out; that’s the stuff that makes them bitter. In order to get this out the skin needs to be broken without damaging the stone (because it has even more oleuropein in it). There were three main options from what I could figure:
1: smash with a rolling pin
2: using a knife, make a cut down the side of each olive
3: using a knife, cut a X across the bottom of the olive
We went with option 3, so hubby and I spent an hour cutting every olive. I’m pleased that we picked this option as it make it easier to stone the olives later in the process.
The next step is to soak the olives. Again there were SOOO many options. In the end I went with covering the olives in water (we had one container each for the black and green) then I mixed about a 4:1 ratio of water to sea salt (don’t use iodised salt) which I had dissolved. I would have added probably .75 – 1 cup to each container. You then have to put things on top to keep the olives under the water line. We used the lids from smaller containers and then weighed them down with some plates. Each day you need to remove all the water, rinse and redo this. The general idea is to keep doing this daily until the olives are no longer bitter. The black olives were ready after about 12 days, and the green after 15.
The final step is to rinse the olives and them put them into jars. While I prepared the brine I put the black ones out in the sun to dry a bit because apparently it helps to bring back more of the black colour that you may have lost during the curing process. I heated some water that was a 10:1 ratio of water to sea salt and brought it to a boil for a short while (until salt is all dissolved). You can apparently do an egg test, which is that a raw egg will float if the brine is right. I didn’t bother with this step. When cooled I added a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar to the water for the black olives, and white wine vinegar for the green. You just pack the olives into the jars…fairly tightly, but not too tight….and pour over the brine. I then poured about half a centimetre of olive oil on the top to ‘seal’ it before putting the lid on. Needless to say during this stage, the jars and lids need to be sterilised! For the green olives, you can spice things up a bit by adding rosemary sprigs and peppercorns in with the brine. Oh, and we stoned some of the black olives before bottling.
Last night we had some of the black ones on our home-made pizza and they were delicious! Definitely worth all the effort.